Friday, February 26, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Marijuana not dangerous,
New York expert will
testify here

Rapists, kidnappers targeted
Voting by mail
Condo child-care

By Helen Altonn


The most harmful thing that can happen to a marijuana user is to be arrested, says a New York physician, pharmacology professor and prolific author on drug-related issues.

Dr. John P. Morgan rebuts arguments that marijuana is dangerous and a gateway to other drugs.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature "It is among the safest (drugs) humans choose to take ... For most Americans, marijuana is a terminus drug rather than a gateway drug. Probably 60 to 70 percent who use marijuana never use another illegal drug."

A professor at the City University of New York School of Medicine and authority on marijuana, Morgan said he has supported its use for medical purposes since specialty training in clinical pharmacology as a young physician.

He also has long advocated decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use, saying, "People should not face jail time for what may be called a vice."

Morgan is in Honolulu to testify for the public defender's office at a hearing next week on the law on driving under the influence of drugs.

Several dozen cases are pending trial in District Court. Most are represented by the public defender's office.

One issue is whether trained policemen should be allowed to testify in courts as drug recognition experts.

Maui police Sgt. Jayson Kozaki, the program's statewide coordinator, said training allows police officers to recognize drug impairment from alcohol or medical conditions.

But Morgan said studies have shown that even trained policemen can't accurately diagnose a driver suspected of being high on marijuana.

Morgan also is talking to legislators to support the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and other groups pushing legislation to allow physicians to recommend marijuana to relieve pain and enhance appetite for cancer, AIDS and other patients.

Six or seven states have passed referendum legislation to legalize medical marijuana and several more are in the process, Morgan said.

After leaving here, he will testify in New Hampshire on a referendum bill, he said.

"New Hampshire also is one of the first states in 20 years to introduce a decriminalization measure in which people shall not be jailed for recreational marijuana," he said.

Morgan is co-author with Dr. Lynn Zimmer of the recent book, "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence."

Dr. Louis Lasagna, author of a 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on marijuana, called it "the first comprehensive review of marijuana toxicity to appear in more than a decade."

Morgan said two large government surveys of households and high school seniors showed no drug has a higher discontinuation rate than marijuana.

In a 10-year follow-up of the high school senior survey, he said more than 80 percent of young people who smoked marijuana never tried cocaine. "So the gateway is a scare."

Distribution and delivery are the most critical problems in legalizing medical marijuana, Morgan said. "People find it often quite difficult to get material even if they find a physician who will agree to recommend it," he said.

Morgan said if he could set up a drug company, he believes he could overcome the Food and Drug Administration's opposition to marketing of marijuana. If the criteria for product safety and other factors was followed, he said, "we could have legal marijuana today."

Law’s arm to get
longer for rapists,



The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill prompted by the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of Dana Ireland on the Big Island.

The bill would extend from six to 10 years the time charges may be brought in class A felony cases, which include rape and kidnapping. Murder has no statute of limitations.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature John Ireland, the father of Dana Ireland, had testified that present law does not allow those responsible for the rape and kidnapping of his daughter to be charged with the crimes because of the length of time that has passed since the incident.

The Big Island prosecutor's office said new technology is making it possible to identify suspects long after a crime is committed.

The bill also extends the statute of limitations on class B felonies from three to five years.

Should the bill pass, it would not affect the Ireland case.

The committee today also passed a bill to allow enhanced sentences in domestic abuse cases if the abuse occurred in the presence of a minor. But it deferred action on another bill seeking a mandatory 48 hours in jail for those convicted of drunken driving while a child was in the car.

The panel also deferred decision on a prostitution bill that would let counties create so-called "prostitution-free" zones in areas other than Waikiki.

Honolulu police yesterday told the committee that the number of prostitutes in Waikiki has dropped dramatically since last month when police began enforcing a new city law which created a new crime of street solicitation.

Police Capt. Thomas Nitta told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it appears the law has accomplished its intent.

People arrested for street solicitation could be banned from entering public streets or sidewalks in Waikiki at night as a condition of bail or probation.

Bill would allow
voting by mail for
special elections

By Craig Gima


Special elections could be conducted by mail under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature The bill directs Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina to set up rules to allow elections by mail.

The primary and general elections would still have to be conducted at regular polling places with only absentee ballots allowed by mail.

Yoshina submitted testimony supporting the bill.

He said the state would have encountered a logistical and financial nightmare if it was forced to comply with U.S. District Judge David Ezra's order to hold a special election within 60 days after Ezra invalidated the result of the constitutional convention question on the November 1996 ballot.

The state appealed Ezra's decision, and the question was placed on last November's general election ballot.

Yoshina said it would have been very difficult to set up the 334 polling places and recruit and train 4,000 election-day officials in just two months.

Allowing elections by mail would be cheaper and make it possible to conduct special elections in a short time period, Yoshina said.

People with disabilities supported the measure as a way to increase equal access to polling places.

The Hawaii State Coordinating Council on Deafness told senators they have received several comments and complaints from voters who are deaf and hard of hearing who encountered communication difficulties at polling places.

"This was of special concern last year because many did not understand how to use the new ballot and could not communicate effectively with workers at the polling places," said Mark Macanas, the council chairman.

Condo child-care proposal
draws mixed reaction

ByPat Omandam


Residential child-care facilities and condominiums are a dangerous mix, warns Frances R. Voerge.

For one, the Hawaii Kai grandmother of 14 worries how at-home child-care providers operating in condominiums could safely evacuate their little charges in an emergency, such as in a high-rise fire.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature "It is just not the threat of a catastrophic fire ... but it's the image of a caretaker trying to usher six infants and toddlers down a common stairwell crowded with people choking from smoke, and pushing and shoving their way to freedom over the fallen forms of the children," Voerge told lawmakers yesterday.

The Senate Consumer Protection Committee next Tuesday votes on a bill that permits family child-care homes to operate out of condominiums, townhouses and apartments.

State law allows at-home child-care businesses only in single-family homes. But the need for more child care by working parents prompted an effort this session to allow them in other types of residential units, where most homeowner associations have prohibited it for fear of liability.

Senators yesterday spent more than an hour hearing mixed testimony on Senate Bill 513, SD1. Condominium associations, property managers and owners protested what they call the Legislature's attempt to usurp their own bylaws and house rules, giving owners no say on the matter.

But the bill's proponents argued the need for more licensed facilities warrants the change, especially when both parents in Hawaii must work to maintain the household. Residential child-care facilities are popular because they are usually cheaper than child-care centers that operate on commercial property.

Wendy Mow-Taira, executive director of People Attentive To Children or PATCH, the state's child-care resource and referral service, said there were 6,619 calls from parents last fiscal year who needed baby-sitting services, but only 3,565 slots available by licensed and license-exempt providers.

Licensed providers are allowed to take in six children while licensed-exempt providers can watch up to two children.

Sayoko Yamaguchi, a licensed provider who was told by her townhouse association last September to stop her 4-year-old residential child-care business, said: "Why should a family move away from their community to take their children to a provider who lives miles away from their own home or job site, when they can make one trip instead of several trips?" she said.

But Richard Port, legislative committee chairman of Hawaii Independent Condominium & Cooperative Owners, told lawmakers there is concern about these children using common areas such as a pool or exercise room, as well as other concerns that could lead to litigation.


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